The Sweet Spot: Lee Miller's Legacy, Downfall, and Bathing in Hitler's Tub

Lee Miller died of cancer, overweight, alcoholic, ravaged by depression, and tortured by her husband's affair with a trapeze artist. Anyone meeting Lee Miller then would have been surprised to know that she was once considered the most beautiful woman in the world, second only to Greta Garbo. A former Vogue model and muse/lover to Man Ray, Miller was also famous for cavorting in Hitler's bathtub.

These tragic details are not in evidence at the “Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism” exhibit currently at the Legion of Honor. What is discussed is her struggle to be an artist in her own right. As a photographer she helped discover the Sabatier Effect, a process of development that edges out the lines of the subject in ethereal shadows. According to her, it was an accidental discovery caused by a mouse running over her foot in the dark room. She was an artist and also a photo journalist. She was the only woman allowed to be a combat photographer during WWII. She is quoted as saying to a reporter, “It seems to me that women have a bigger chance at success in photography than men … Women are quicker and more adaptable than men. And I think they have an intuition that helps them understand personalities more quickly than men.”

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